Tips for How to Use Painters Tape
Apply painters tape faster and more effectively so you can get started painting sooner and make fewer mistakes.
Clean Moldings Before Applying Painter’s Tape
Even the stickiest masking tape won’t stay put if you apply it to a dusty, dirty surface. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you start every masking job by cleaning the moldings or the wall to which you’re applying the tape. Usually a thorough dusting with a damp rag is all that’s required. But if the surface is greasy, you’ll have to wash it with a detergent solution. TSP-PF (phosphate free), available at home centers and paint stores, is the go-to detergent for most painters. Wait for the surface to dry completely before masking.
Speed Up Painting Prep with a Painter’s Tape Applicator
If you really want to speed up and simplify your masking job, buy a tape applicator. Shown is the ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape Applicator from 3M. It’s available at home centers and paint stores with a roll of tape, and it’s designed to help you mask precisely using the adjacent surface as a guide. You simply roll it along the molding, wall or ceiling to apply the tape. Then use the built-in cutter to slice the tape at the end of the run. With this tool, even a novice can get great results with only a few minutes of practice.
Press Down Painter’s Tape to Ensure a Good Bond
After you apply painter’s tape, make sure to press down the edge to seal it. Otherwise paint is sure to seep under the edge of the tape. A flexible putty knife works great. Start at one end of your tape run and pull the blade along the tape while applying downward pressure. Tilt the putty knife blade slightly so you’re applying pressure right along the edge of the tape.
How to Protect Walls When Painting a Ceiling
If you’re painting spray texturing a ceiling, draping lightweight plastic sheeting is the best way to protect your walls. Here’s a quick and easy way to hang the plastic. Use 1-1/2-in.-wide painter’s tape with medium to high holding strength. Press the top edge down, but leave the bottom loose. It should curl up slightly to expose the sticky underside. Stick the edge of the lightweight plastic sheeting to the tape and let it hang to the floor. You don’t need to tuck the plastic underneath the tape. Just curl the tape back onto itself and stick the plastic to the exposed adhesive. Always test first in an inconspicuous area to make sure the tape doesn’t pull paint from the wall. Super-thin “painter’s plastic” sheeting is a good choice for this type of masking because it’s inexpensive and lightweight, and it produces less waste. Overlap the plastic at doorways to create an opening.
How to Apply Painter’s Tape in a Corner
It’s easy to get a perfect fit on inside corners with this simple technique. Start by running the first piece of tape up the wall, making it a little long. Press the tape down into the corner with a putty knife. Then cut along the crease with a sharp utility knife and remove the cutoff piece. Now you don’t have to be so careful with the next piece.
Apply Kraft Paper Border to Protect Floors when Painting
Here’s a tip to save you time when you’re moving drop cloths. Start out by applying a kraft paper border around the room, making sure to carefully mask the edge closest to the base trim. You can buy rolls of 6-in.-wide masking paper at home centers and paint stores. Shown is a hand-masking tool that speeds up the job. You can buy one for about $20 at home centers and paint stores.
With the border in place, you can move tarps along as you paint, and you won’t have to waste time keeping them perfectly tight to the baseboard. As long as the edge of the tarp is covering the paper, you’re good to go. And this tip works equally well on hard surfaces and carpet.
Apply Painter’s Tape Without a Special Tool
To apply painter’s tape quickly and precisely, without any special tools, stick a few inches of tape to the molding and unroll about 6 more inches. While you hold the roll of tape tight against the wall, rotate it down to stick this section of tape and repeat the process. It takes a bit of practice, but mastering this technique will dramatically increase your masking speed and accuracy.
Score Painter’s Tape Before Pulling It Off
Ideally you would remove masking tape right away, while the paint is still wet. But in reality this isn’t practical. In the first place, most water-based paint dries pretty fast. By the time you’re through painting a room, the paint where you started is already starting to dry. And if you have to apply a second coat of paint, you certainly don’t want to remove the tape and then have to reapply it.
The solution is to let the paint dry completely. Then score the edge of the tape with a putty knife before you pull it off. This will break any bond that has formed with the paint and ensure that the masking tape will come off cleanly without damaging your paint job.
Painting Inside Corners
When you’re changing wall colors at an inside corner, it can be hard to get a nice straight line, especially if the corner is rounded or has built-up layers of paint. The trick is to paint around the corner with the first color. Then when the paint dries, mask off the painted side using top-quality edge-sealing painter’s tape (FrogTape Multi-Surface is one example available from amazon.com).
But don’t try to tape right down the corner. Instead, move the tape about 1/8 in. from the corner where it’ll be easier to get a perfectly straight line. Nobody will ever notice that one paint color extends slightly past the corner, and you’ll end up with a straight, crisp color change.
Painting Prep: Foolproof Window Masking
Unless you have a super-steady hand, when painting windows it’s faster and easier to simply mask off window glass—especially if you use this super-quick method: Apply strips of painter’s tape to the sides, leaving the ends long. Then press the ends of the tape into the corner with a flexible putty knife. Use a razor knife to cut off the excess tape. Now it’s easy to fll in between the side pieces, and you don’t have to worry about getting the tape the perfect length.
If you’re spray painting instead of brushing, start by cutting a piece of paper about an inch smaller than the glass and putting it under the first piece of tape you apply.
Apply Painter’s Tape with Flexible Putty Knife
A flexible putty knife is an essential tool for applying painter’s tape. It’s better than a rigid blade for sealing the edges, cutting the tape square and scoring corners because it conforms to uneven surfaces better and you can put more pressure on the end without tearing or scraping away the tape.
Paper Flaps Protect Trim from Paint Roller Spatter
Extending the painter’s tape with a piece of 3-in. masking paper is all that’s needed to protect the woodwork from most roller spatter and drips. Three-inch paper is ideal because it’ll stand straight out. Wider paper may seem like a better idea, but it’ll sag and won’t provide as much protection. And since the 3-in. paper doesn’t sag, you’ll still be able to close doors without the paper getting in the way.
Apply 3-in. paper along the top trim of windows and doors and along the baseboard. Don’t bother to fit the paper tight into corners along the baseboard; you don’t need much spatter protection there.
Protect with Masking Paper When Painting
Masking paper adds a few bucks to the cost of a painting job, but it’s worth it. Besides protecting wide trim, it makes it easy to cut in along the baseboard, plus it protects the edge of the floor when you’re rolling the walls and ceiling.
Choose the Right Painter’s Tape for the Job
There are times when a cheaper product will do the job as well as the expensive product. But cheap painter’s tape is no bargain. If you’re going to all the trouble of masking, you want tape that will seal tightly to the surface and come off easily. But there’s no single type of tape that will work in every circumstance. For general masking, use Scotch-Blue No. 2090 available from amazon.com. There are two versions: one for standard masking, and one with less adhesion for masking over delicate surfaces. You can leave these on for up to 14 days. You can also use the blue tape on window glass. The adhesive will withstand ultraviolet light without baking onto the glass. Scotch No. 2060 available from amazon.com is extra sticky and works well for textured surfaces like stucco and brick. If you’re only going to buy one width, get 1-1/2-in.-wide tape. It works well for most tasks.
How to Remove Painter’s Tape
Several things can go wrong when it comes time to remove painter’s tape. If you wait too long, the adhesive on the tape will harden and remain stuck to the woodwork. Or if the paint sets but isn’t completely dry, some of the wall paint may peel off along with the tape.
Here are solutions to some common problems: If you’re a procrastinator or slow painter, choose tape that’s designed to be left on for several days. Scotch No. 2090 is one brand that uses a slow-hardening adhesive so it can be safely left on for about 14 days.
To avoid peeling paint, pull the tape off immediately or wait at least overnight for the paint to dry completely. Beware of paint that feels dry to the touch but hasn’t hardened and fully bonded to the wall. It may come off along with the painter’s tape.
Remove tape at about a 45-degree angle to the painted surface, as shown, to minimize the tendency for paint to peel.
If, despite waiting overnight and using a good technique, you notice the paint still peels with the tape, use the edge of your putty knife or a utility knife to cut the seal between the wall and tape before you remove the tape.